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3-2-1 Preview: 3 Things We Want To See, 2 Key Stats and 1 Best Bet for Michigan State versus Ohio State

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Not every statistic surrounding this game is a miserable one for Michigan State.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Michigan State Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

It’s 3-2-1 preview time for this Saturday’s matchup between Michigan State and Ohio State. Let’s get right to it.

3 THINGS WE WANT TO SEE

LIMIT THE BIG PLAYS

Ohio State throttled Purdue last week thanks to six touchdowns in its first six possessions of the game. Many of those drives included big plays...

  • Touchdown via 21-yard pass on third-and-six to make it 7-0.
  • 78-yard touchdown drive that included a 51-yard gain through the air, making it 14-7.
  • One play drive on a 57-yard touchdown run, making it 21-7.
  • 20-yard touchdown pass, making it 28-7.
  • 51-yard touchdown run, making it 42-14 before the first half was even over.

There aren’t a lot of fun stats to look at surrounding this game, but I’ve got one for you guys — Michigan State ranks 15th in the nation at allowing explosive plays (12-plus yard runs or 16-plus yard passes). MSU, notably, gives up a ton of yards through the air, but the Spartans keep the plays in front of them. It’s annoying at times, but it can also be the recipe to keeping this game in striking distance.

Another stat that might bring some hope is in the red zone, too...

MAKE THE “RED ZONE” THE NO-ZONE

Michigan State’s defense, as we know, has taken on the “bend don’t break” philosophy in many games this season. And there are some nice numbers to back it up as MSU has a 43 percent red zone touchdown rate — seventh-best in the nation.

Ohio State is sitting at a 66 percent touchdown rate once the Buckeyes reach the red zone. So, it’s safe to say a big portion of this game will be decided on Michigan State’s great red zone defense versus Ohio State’s decent red zone offense.

So, we’ve talked about limiting big plays and tightening up in the red zone, which are both obvious things you want to do in a football game. However, it was worth noting that MSU has found success doing both this season. With that said...yeah, OSU is a different beast than anything else the Spartans have faced this season.

KENNETH Walker III, ONCE AGAIN, GOING OFF

Sorry, Kenneth, but you put these high expectations on yourself. It goes without saying that MSU will need to hang up some points on the board this Saturday to keep up with OSU.

This goes back to the start of the season, but Minnesota was able to scare the Buckeyes and Oregon was able to beat them thanks to a great run game. Now don’t get me wrong — I understand how much things change from early September to mid-November. However, Ohio State hasn’t faced any world-class running games since that fateful afternoon against the Ducks.

All the cliches need to align. Establish the run game to set up the passing game with Jayden Reed. Get chunk yardages to set up drives to keep your defense off the field. Keep your Heisman campaign alive and well. You know, the usual.

2 KEY STATS

40.8/41.6

That’s right, baby. These two defenses are neck-and-neck in the third-down conversion race, and not for a good reason. Michigan State gives up third-down conversions at a 40.8 percent clip and Ohio State gives them up at a 41.6 percent clip — 11th and 12th place in the conference, respectively.

Penn State was able to make its game hairy against Ohio State by going 11-for-16 on third-down attempts (68.75 percent). On the contrary, Nebraska maybe could have gotten that signature win had the Cornhuskers not gone two-for-13 (15. 3 percent) on third downs.

The sample size of the season tells us OSU could struggle on getting off the field on third downs, so there’s another fun little stat to think about.

100 percent

That’s Ohio State kicker Noah Ruggles’ field goal percentage this year. That’s right — a smooth 16-for-16 on the season.

The “stop them in the red zone” plan is all fun and games when you get a typical college kicker that could miss a chip shot field goal. That’s not the case so far this season with Ruggles, unfortunately.

His long on the season is 46 yards, and he’s made all four field goal attempts from beyond 40 yards. So, yes, Michgan State can get stops inside the red zone, but with Ruggles, it’s to the point where it’s at least an automatic three points when the Buckeyes cross the 30-yard-line.

1 Best Bet

MSU +19.5, over/under 68.5

All right, so we technically didn’t lose last week as the final score was frozen on 61 and refused to ever climb over (NICE MISSED EXTRA POINT, THANKS GUYS).

Anyway, we are on a one-way trip to Over Town again. I can see Michigan State making this a close game as easily as I can see Ohio State flattening the Green and White, so I refuse to pick a side.

I see this game being a track meet, and OSU’s matchup against MSU’s secondary just screams “POINTS” to me.

Pick: Over 68.5

Record: 3-6-1